Letter from the President

Fighting Zoom Fatigue and the Value of Self-Care

Cheryl Johnson, 2020-2021 OFLA President
Denison University, Instructional Technologist for the Dept of Modern Languages

Greetings! In pondering for weeks now what to write to you, our members, I find myself searching for words of hope that can shine a light on a year that has been a challenging one for all of us – full of disappointments, natural disasters, conflicts, isolation, illness and the loss of many lives. Added to this is the uncertainty that most of us have gone through with regards to which teaching model – online, in person, hybrid, HyFlex or a combination of models – we would be required to implement this fall. This uncertainty, of course, produces stress that can make us feel exhausted even before the end of the first unit of study. On top of all this, our school budgets have been cut, which impacts our ability to obtain professional development. Then, of course, there is “Zoom fatigue” that those of us who are delivering instruction online either through Google Meet, Zoom, Teams or Webex must combat. All of this can be overwhelming so what do we do to feel more in control and less stressed?

Let’s start by reducing the level of fatigue that we feel from a day online. First of all, we cannot do it all – troubleshoot tech, deliver content, monitor all pair activities, monitor the chat window, notice when someone has left the virtual room, etc. A recommendation that I have given many of my colleagues is to consider assigning each day or each week a student to watch the chat for you. They are charged with letting you know if a remote student is having trouble connecting or hearing you or the class. If you are recording your classes, they make sure that you have clicked “Record”. They also can remind you if you have stepped out of view or if you are writing on the classroom whiteboard or chalkboard whether or not the remote students can see it well. One of my colleagues each week pairs each remote student with one of her in-person students. It is the in-person’s responsibility to make sure that their remote partner is able to hear, to ask questions and to contribute to the conversation. The message is that we are a community and we help each other to learn.

There are many websites that are cropping up with recommendations for teachers. Personally, I like the list of suggestions that Duquesne University has posted on their “Teaching with Technology” blog. You can click this link to the “Overcoming Zoom Fatigue” post or just read the list of ideas below and read the details on the blog page later.

  1. Spend time talking about off-topic content at the start of each Zoom meeting.
  2. Direct students to turn off their cameras, mute their microphones and go do something else for a few minutes.
  3. Use a variety of Zoom tools. (I would like to add for those of us using Google Meet that we now have the digital whiteboard – Jamboard – integrated into Meet. Google also released the ability to blur out background. This is particularly handy for me personally since my husband has the propensity to pile his dirty laundry right behind my desk. Soon Google will release new moderator controls, breakout rooms and a way to take attendance.)
  4. Identify 1 or 2 students in advance of each Zoom Meeting to share something related to the topic of that day’s class.
  5. Choose the Hide Self-View option in Zoom.
  6. Stand up, stretch your legs and continue to lead class while standing. (I suggest that you have students move too. The remote students suffer from sitting in front of a computer all day too. Those in class, watching the remote students, are feeling the effects of Zoom fatigue too.)
  7. Mix up the activities frequently.
  8. Take a break.
  9. Create a meeting agenda or itinerary to keep things on track.
  10. Change up your environment.
  11. Choose other fun ways to break up the monotony.

At the end of the day or between classes and you are by yourself, it’s time for self-care. Here are some suggestions.

  1. Turn off your computer and either silence or turn off your phone.
  2. Take off your mask and try some deep breathing exercises to help you to relax. If you have never tried deep breathing to relax, you may like to view this WebMD page.
  3. Have a no-device dinner with your family so that you can really enjoy each other’s company.
  4. Schedule activities in the evening or on the weekends that promote calm for you. For me, it is gardening, doing jigsaw puzzles, taking a walk or a Sunday afternoon drive in the country. Taking time for one of these activities, even for just 15 or 20 minutes, revives me enough so that I can turn my computer and phone back on to work on my next set of tasks.
  5. I want to emphasize that spending time in nature whether in our backyard oasis or in a park makes us happier and healthier. Many studies have shown that people feel a significant increase in their sense of well-being. Those who spend time outside enjoying nature report feeling more energetic and productive, a reduction of feelings of stress and negativity, better sleep, and happier.

I hope that some of these ideas will be of use to you. Feel free to share more ideas on our OFLA listserv at ofla@googlegroups.com

Wishing you a safe and healthy school year,
Cheryl

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